The Miocene alluvial-lacustrine sequences of the Madrid Basin, Spain, formed in highly varied landscapes. The presence of various types of palaeosols allows assessment of the effects of local and external factors on sedimentation, pedogenesis and geomorphological development. In the northern, more arid, tectonically active area, soils were weakly developed in aggrading alluvial fans, dominated by mass flows, reflecting high sedimentation rates. In more distal parts of the fans and in playa lakes calcretes and dolocretes developed; the former were associated with Mg-poor fan sediments while the latter formed on Mg-rich lake clays exposed during minor lake lowstands.

The north-east part of the basin had a less arid climate. Alluvial fans in this area were dominated by stream flood deposits, sourced by carbonate terrains. Floodplain and freshwater lake deposits formed in distal areas. The high local supply of calcium carbonate may have contributed to the preferential development of calcretes on the fans. Both the fan and floodplain palaeosols exhibit pedofacies relationships and more mature soils developed in settings more distant from the sediment sources. Palaeosols also developed on pond and lake margin carbonates, and led to the formation of palustrine limestones.

The spatial distributions and stratigraphies of palaeosols in the Madrid Basin alluvial fans suggest that soil formation was controlled by local factors. These palaeosols differ from those seen in Quaternary fans, which are characterized by climatically induced periods of stability and instability.